William Freeman Farr was born to Aaron Farr and Lucretia Balthorp Jan. 16, 1861, in Ogden, Weber, Utah. His parents accepted the Mormon religion and came across the country as pioneers. His father worked hard and did very well financially. William met Emily Frances Champneys and married her April 27, 1882. His father built them a brick home in Ogden. They had two children there. Will decided to homestead some property in Lewisville, Idaho. They had two more children in Lewisville. But unfortunately Emily died due to complications with the birth of her fourth child. Three months later Will married Anna Hansen on April 27, 1889, the same day of his and Emily's wedding anniversary. Anna was from Denmark originally. Together they had six children born to them in Lewisville. In 1910 the family is found on the census in Gridley, Butte Co., California. Will must have sold his farm in Idaho and bought a farm in California. Five kids were living with them then. In 1920 he was still living in Gridley but at age 59 Will is listed as a teamster. Will and Anna remained in Gridley until their deaths.
William (Will) Freeman Farr by Marcy Bramwell
William (Will) Freeman Farr was born in Ogden, Weber, Utah on 16 January 1861, the second son born to Aaron Freeman Farr and Lucretia Ball Thorp. Lucretia being Aaron's second wife.
Will's brother Charles Lyman, died in infancy. His older sister was Olive Estella (Stella), he also had two younger sisters, Lucretia Rosabell (Rose) and Cordelia Ballou. Sadly, search for pictures or information of Will's early years have been fruitless.
Since his beautiful mother, Lucretia, had a good education for those early times and taught school for a while, it can be assumed that attention would have been paid to Will's secular and religious education.
Free spirited? To keep ahead of the dust? Impatient to get there? From St. Louis to Utah, for whatever reason, Lucretia had walked nearly every step of the way, a little ahead of the wagon train, carrying a small stool to rest on as she waited for the company to catch up. (The small stool is a treasure of one of her granddaughters, Gloria Hall Johnson.) Lucretia continued a faithful member of the LDS Church throughout her life. She served as president of the Ogden Third Ward Relief Society for 24 years, taking charge of many large banquets and all the duties that position required.
Will's known story begins with his marriage at age twenty-one to the beautiful and talented Emily Frances Champneys. She had immigrated from a financially comfortable environment in London, England, and was five years younger than Will. Emily was well education, had a lovely-trained contralto voice and was accomplished on the piano. When her father and younger sister moved from Salt Lake City to Ogden, she was permitted to remain in Salt Lake City another year to finish her musical training. Will and Emily were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on 27 April 1882.
Will's father Aaron, having been in the first westward company of pioneers, had by now become a judge and prominent resident of Ogden and a person of some means. He built a red brick house for Will and Emily on the family lot at the corner of Washington Avenue and Twentieth Street. Two children were born in this Ogden home: Maud Lucretia and William Vernon (Bern).
We don't know how they met, but Emily fell in love with Will when she was only 16 years old and was sealed to him in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City on 27 April 1882. Because Will's father wanted the reception to be in his home, the Champneys provided a sumptuous banquet there for the ninety guest and had their piano taken over for the event. They knew the guests would ask the bride to sing. Minnie said Emily selected a pretty love song called "I heard a Wee Bird Singing." In the last refrain, the words were, "I heard a wee bird singing, and the wedding bells were ringing, and then Willie was my own." When the applause stopped, some of the guest hurried over to seee the music to see for what name she had substituted "Willie" and found it was "Tillie." She then played a number of piano solos. (One of Maud's earliest recollections is that of accompanying her beautiful mother to the Mack Boyce home where there was a piano. She remembered her mother playing and singing, "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathlee.")
Will was apparently an ambitious young man open to challenges. When the government offered land to homestead in 1885, he filed on a 160-acre section one mile south of the southeast corner of Lewisville, Idaho. We know he later helped a son-in-law get logs from the timberland near Yellowstone Park, so it is likely that such was the source for the logs for the new cabin to which he and Emily took Maud and Vern a couple of years later. It was here where their second daughter Norma Elizabeth was born.
Perhaps to the surprise of some, Emily adjusted beautifully to this new frontier life. However tragedy struck the little family when Emily died 21 January 1889 following complications of the birth of her second son Cyril, on 16 January 1889. Will's sister Olive Estella and others cared for the infant until his death the following August. His healthy and robust appearance in a professional photograph leads one to speculate that Cyril succumbed to a childhood communicable disease.
Will later married Anna Hansen who was born in Horsen, Odense, Denmark, January 19, 1869. Her large family had been converted to the Church and immigrated to the United States in groups as passage could be earned. They traveled at the cheapest rate, in crude, cramped steerage class, as did many during the 1800's and early 1900's, and in their case, in proximity to animals. Her mother chose to come last, believing the family would work harder at earning her passage than if a child was left behind.
When she was 14, Anna came to America, with her father, Mads Christian Hansen, two brothers and a sister on the ship "Nevada" leaving from Liverpool, England on 21 Jun 1882. From New York they continued by rail to Ogden, then on to Goshen, Utah.
Her marriage to Wiliam Cateron had ended in divorce and she and her son, William Henry (Will), were living with her parents in Goshen, Utah, when her brother, Joseph, related to her the sad circumstances of his friend, Will Farr.
Leaving her small son, Will, to the care of her parents, Maren and Mads Christian Hansen, beautiful twenty-year old Anna succumbed to Joseph's persuasion to move to Lewisville, Idaho, to take care of Will's young family. When several weeks later she learned that wagging tongues were making false accusations, her fiery temper flared. She packed her things and was headed for the buggy with the children crying and Maud hanging on to Anna's leg, begging her not to go. She couldn't leave them. So Will and Anna decided to get married.
Their civil marriage was on 27 April 1889 in Eagle Rock Idaho (near Idaho Falls). A grandson asked Will if he loved Anna when they married. He answered "not then, but I do now." They and their children were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on 8 October 1903, including Anna's son, William Henry (Will) Cateron Farr, who was adopted by Will Farr.
In addition to mothering Will's three and her son from a previous marriage, six more children were born to them in the Lewisville vicinity, three girls and three boys: Carrie Lucinthia b. 5 Jun 1890, Lillian Frances b. 28 June 1892, Lila b. 2 May 1894 d. 1902, Clarence Henry b. 17 May 1896, LeRoy b. 9 Sep 1899 (also died in 1902, both deaths from diphtheria) and Aaron Lovon (Lavon) b. 14 Dec 1903.
Frontier life was strenuous and everyone pitched in to the extent of his or her capacity. For their dry farm cabin days, their water came from a nearby canal in the summer and from melted snow in the winter. They produced nearly everything they consumed. Their cold storage in summer was creatd by huge ice blocks cut from the river in winter, insulated by straw and placed in a deep cellar dug next to the cabin. The children did laundry, herded or milked cows, hoed beets, picked up potatoes at harvest time and cooked for threshing crews. Rendering lard, bottling and drying fruit and vegetables, making bread and cheese and butter, sewing carpet rags, knitting and sewing clothing kept many hands busy.
Subsequently, Will, Anna and family moved into a brick home in Lewisville (still standing, at least in the sixities, a store having been built immediately in front of it). Their social life centerd around the Church and the children remembered many happy times. Except for the long, extremely cold winters, they were content.
IN 1905, the California Irrigated Lands Company, headquartered in San Francisco, began a nation-wide advertising campaign to sell plats of land in their "colonies" around Gridley Butte, California. Water had been turned out of the Feather River into the Butte County canal northest of the town and gradually turned the old "dry-farmed" lands into irrigated farms where alfalfa, fruit trees and row crops were the mainstay of an every-increasing number of small landholders.
The company's advertising was enthusiastic and promising. Old times tell of large posters in Wisconsin post office showing a happy farmer plowing silver dollars out of the furrows at "Gridley, California." The local newspaper published generous editorials on the productiveness of Gridley's water-fed soil, the maps of the growing colonies, and the pictures of peaceful lateral ditches conveying water to pleasant fields and orchards.
These irrigated lands drew hundreds from their former homes in Utah and Idaho. Devoted to their faith and to each other, and charateristically industrious, the Latter Day Saint community grew rapidly from 1906 on.
It is not suprising that, when friends who scouted the area returned to Lewisville corroborating the glowing accounts. Will sold out and bought a home in Gridley. He chartered a freight car and with his brother-in-law Joseph, accompanied the animals, furniture and farm equipment to Gridley while the family traveled by coach.
They arrived January 16, 1907. Some of the children recorded their impressions as stepping into Paradise, others the Garden of Eden. Their sudden transplant from ice and snow to green grass, birds singing, oranges, lemons and olives on the trees at the train station was astonishing. It was love at first sight.
There were a few second thoughts, however, when the following March there was a vividly remembered flood when the cresting Sacramento and Feather Rivers met and overflowed. People gathered up on boats and taken to the hotel in town, which was on higher ground. Farm animals and flocks were also rescued by boat. Will and Maud's husband Alfred Bramwell, carried pigs into the barn loft to keep them from drowning. Horses and cows stood in barns in water up to their bellies. The flood finally subsided after three anxious days. Dikes and drainage ditches were gradually provided to eliminate the threat.
Subsequently some of the "colonizers" left because of malaria conditions until drainage ditches were put inplace to ease the severe mosquito problem, then they returned.
At the outset, some of the local residents did not take kindly to the influx of the "Mormons" whose ways and faith were different from their own. Will was challenged by a group of townspeople who met the train (wanting to see his horns) but he held his ground and the town Marshall warned the troublemakers to desist. In time however, with the dispelling of false tales, the industry, circumspect behaviour and farming know-how of the arrivals commanded respect from the settlers and misconceptions gave way.
Will's granson Jack Nielson recalled a very ambitious 24th of July parade several years later with a band, covered wagons, horses, floates, marching children and "Indians" riding bareback, all organized by Will. Jack contrasted the warmth of hundreds of townspeople lining the streets enjoying this L.D. S. production with the original hostility and disdain with which they had been met.
Will was relatively comfortable financially when he moved to California. At some point, he contracted to install a sewer system. Everything proceeded well until quicksand was encountered. He lost everything and had to start over. Nevertheless, he was always open-handed, housing various families until they could get settled, taking people in and giving them a hand up.
Later on, until numbers made it unwieldy his children with their familes met together to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays. IN addition, there was an annual camping vacation at beautiful Buck's Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 50 miles from Gridley. As many of the extended family as could spent one or two weeks or over a weekend. Such memorable fun-filled days and evenings: rowing, fishing, exploring, campfire weenie and marshmallow roasts, flap jacks (fried bread dough), and sharing stories. Even the granchildren's boy friends and girlfriends were welcome. It was here that Will's gregarious nature and genuine love of all people was most noticeable. By the end of the first day, he had become acquainted with every camper and knew every Forest Ranger and Lodge Owner.
He and his sons and grandsons shared a strong attraction to hunting and fishing and loved the camaraderie of their ventures. Nothing interfered with hunting season. Many pictures abound which attest to their success.
Will had built a home on three (or four) acres of good soil and truck gardened for many years, supplying the local markets with premium quality vegetable and melons. The melons were irresistible to young vandals who one day were "caught in the act." Will's grandson Jack, still recalled in his senior years how impressed he was with the way the teaching moment was handled. Will brought the fellows over and sat them down under a fruit tree, cut generous slices of watermelon for all to eat, and assured them that whenever they wanted watermelon to just come to the door and they'd have it. Which was done. To Jack's knowledge, there was never another problem.
Anna (or Annie as she was affectionately called) was fiercely protective of her children and tireless worker in the Church. One of the earlies Sunday Schools was held in Anna and Will's home with daughter Lillan playing the piano. Anna was Relief Socity president for over twenty-five years, supervising the very ambitious annual bazaars (for which beautiful quilts and other handcrafts were labored over all year), as well as the many banquets and compassionate acts of service the position entails.
It was no secret to the family, however, that at times the atmosphere in Will's and Anna's home could not be characterized as serene. Anna was a truly beautiful woman but with a fiery temper and objects could be seen flying in the direction of Will. One can speculate that he just might have baited her for the show. But any reaction on his part (other than ducking) was verbal, never physical.
Anna died of cancer at the age of 63 on 22 March 1932 and was buried in the Gridley-Biggs cemetery, the resting-place for numerous Farr descendants since that time. Though many have died elsewhere when their time came, they have been taken "home" to Gridley for burial.
The youngest son and wife, Lavon and Gladys, generously moved into the home to care for Will for the next nine years. He died of a paralytic stroke at the age of 80 on 26 December 1941.
Jack Nielson, who lived across the street and spent more time at his grandparents home than his own, probably knew Will and Anna better than any one else. Anna was his haven of security to which he ran, especially to escape a spanking from his mother. Looking beyond human weaknesses to which he was not blind, Will was to Jack, one of the greatest men he ever knew, living and teaching scrupulous honesty and genuine love for all people.